For Batman, the death of his parents was the biggest tragedy of his life. They were both taken away from him by two bullets. Bullets shot by a random mugger. Bullets that would scar Bruce Wayne for the rest of his life. Bullets that would lead him into becoming the Batman. He was motivated by the loss of his parents to rid Gotham City of the criminal element that took his parents lives. He would carry that promise for the rest of his life. But he would not do it alone....for he had Robin, The Boy Wonder. And the decision to recruit him into his dangerous mission would ultimately lead to tragedy....
THE DEATH OF THE SECOND ROBIN, JASON TODD.
Yes, I did say "second" Robin, because more than one person has worn the mantle of Robin. The first person to become Robin was Dick Grayson, who was the most well known Robin, as he wore the costume from the late 30's, all the way to the mid 70's. But Dick soon outgrew the role, and set off alone as the adult crime fighter Nightwing. Batman would continue to fight solo, until he met Jason Todd, a troubled orphan who literally tried to steal the tires off the batmobile. Batman felt sorry for the young boy and decided to take him in as the second Robin. But Jason Todd never set well with readers of the day. He was reckless, brutal, and was fueled by his anger. While I myself never had a problem with this (I actually thought it was an interesting depiction of Robin), the readers continued to complain about Jason, and the editorial board at DC decided they had to do something about it. But since they couldn't figure out what to do, they decided to let the readers choose Robin's fate!
The story itself shows that Batman is starting to realize that Jason's recklessness is becoming a serious problem. In order to keep his anger under control (and to not let himself get killed), Batman forces Jason to go off active duty. When Jason hears about this, he angrily leaves the Wayne Manor, and walks towards his old apartment in Crime Alley. When he gets there, he finds a startling discovery. He finds his birth certificate, where his mother, Catherine Todd's signature isn't there. Instead, there is a blacked out name starting with the letter "S" in its place. Realizing that Catherine Todd was not his mother, he travels across the world to search for his real mother. His search leads him to the Middle East, where the Joker is busy selling nuclear weapons to Arab terrorists. I bet your wondering why he would be doing trade with terrorists. Well it's because the police started seizing his funds after he recently crippled Barbra Gordon in THE KILLING JOKE, and he's trying to recover his lost money. Plus he's also insane! When the Joker finds Jason, he takes advantage of the opportunity, and beats the boy wonder near to death before leaving him to die in an explosion.
This where the readers were able to decide Robin's fate. DC Comics gave the fans two phone numbers. One would allow Jason to survive the explosion, and the other would send him into his grave. In the end, the death phone number won by a slim margin, and Jason was found dead in the rumble by Batman. A scene that will have you moving with tears.
The story about Robin's death may be controversial, but it's an amazing story that plays a key role in the life of the dark knight! Jason's death shows us the risks that Batman is taking by allowing a young boy to fight crime along side him, and transforms Batman into more of a loner as he limits his partnerships with his other allies in the future. But more importantly, this story makes Batman's obsession with the Joker even more personal. During the 1980's, the Joker was becoming a darker and more murderous foe as his crimes became more heinous. A powerful example of this was in Alan Moore's THE KILLING JOKE (a personal favorite of mine), as he cripples Barbra Gordon in an attempt to drive her father insane. He ended her career as Batgirl with a single bullet, and has know gone over the edge once again by murdering the boy wonder. These two crimes would cause Batman to no longer hold back on the Joker, and in some cases, would even be tempted to break his one rule with the Joker. In short, these factors make Jason Todd's death the second greatest tragedy in Batman's life.
It's a tale that will truly move you away, and prepare you for how Batman will decide his actions in the future. Controversial or not, I will always treasure this as a truly sensational story of the dark knight!
May Jason Todd rest in peace...